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Morgan Reflects On '08, Looks Ahead To '09

Published: January 12, 2009 5:52 pm ET

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Tony Morgan led all harness racing drivers in wins for the fifth time in his career - and second time in three seasons - in 2008 but says repeating the feat this year will be tough. In fact, Morgan points to rising star Jason Bartlett as the man to beat..

Morgan, 50, won 961 races last year, which was 58 better than defending champ Tim Tetrick, who ended his campaign on December 7 to have hip surgery.

Dave Palone was third with 886 while Bartlett was fourth at 657 and Jordan Stratton was fifth with 630.

Bartlett, 27, set a career high in wins last season and was voted harness racing's Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association after leading the standings at Yonkers Raceway. Stratton, 21, just completed his second full season as a driver and became the youngest driving champ in Monticello Raceway history.

"I think probably the ones to beat beside Palone will be Bartlett and Stratton," Morgan said. "I think Bartlett would be the odds-on favourite, if I had to guess. I like Stratton; I think he drives very good and does a very good job. But I'm really impressed with Bartlett and how sharp a horseman he is for a young kid. He's real sharp and a quick study.

“I think Bartlett would do well at the Meadowlands, if he would make a commitment,” he added. “I think he could be in the top three if he would commit himself. He's every bit as good a driver as any of them."

Changes in the schedules at Harrah's Chester and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, which both will switch from daytime to evening racing, could negatively impact Morgan's statistics in 2009. Morgan won a total of 262 races and $4.2 million at the two tracks last season.

He won the most races and money at Dover Downs in Delaware, 341 and $3.5 million, and added 332 victories and $2.3 million at Harrington Raceway.

"It's probably going to be a 30 percent pay cut for me," said Morgan, who won a career-high $10.8 million last year. "I'll have to see how my clients stack up. I'm going to have to see where my major clients are going to be and try to figure it out from there. It's going to be a pay cut, one way or another, but I can deal with it.

"Things are going to slow up, though. I think it will be far-fetched to rack up 1,000 wins each year the way the stars are aligning. I'd just like to keep up a good pace and not get over the hill too quick. I'm still pretty competitive at it. I try to keep myself sharp. I'm going to have to retire some day, but hopefully not today or tomorrow."

Morgan drove in a career-high 4,526 races in 2008 - an average of 12.4 per calendar day - and plans to remain busy this season.

"I really don't enjoy days off," Morgan said. "I'd rather race. It's a lot easier for me that way. I'm not the kind of guy that can go someplace to race one horse and really excel. That's not my cup of tea anymore. The more I drive, the easier it is. It's a lot more natural."

Morgan's five times atop the driving leaderboard rank second in history, behind Herve Filion, and he has finished among the Top 10 each of the last 15 years.

"It's nice to have a feather in your cap; sure, I like that. But it's not everything to me," Morgan said. "I'm not a goal-setter. I'm not cut out of that mold at all. I just try to have a good day every day and try to turn the page as quick as possible on the bad days. That's the key to being consistent, being able to turn the page quickly. I try not to clutter my mind with yesterday."

(Harness Racing Communications)

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